Education

Blacks Convinced Discrimination Still Exists in College Admission Process

Whites much more likely to say that white and black students have equal chances

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Blacks and whites in America view the process of gaining admission to college much differently. A significant majority of blacks say that if two equally qualified students, one white and one black, apply to a major college, the white student would have the better chance of being admitted to the college. About half of whites, on the other hand, say that the two students would have an equal chance of admission, and of the rest, a slight plurality say that the black student would have the advantage. As a matter of principle, blacks are split on the issue of whether it is legitimate to take race and ethnic background into account in college admissions. Whites overwhelming say merit should be the only consideration.

Admission Chances

The issue of the role of race and ethnic status in the college admission process is complex and controversial. The controversy revolves around the appropriateness of giving preference to underrepresented minorities in the admission process as a way of overcoming past discrimination and increasing diversity on college campuses. The University of Michigan most famously has been involved in lawsuits that ultimately reached the U.S. Supreme Court over its policy of assigning minorities extra "points" in the scoring system it used to determine undergraduate admissions. Voters in Michigan passed a "Michigan Civil Rights Initiative" in 2006, which was intended to ban reverse discrimination in Michigan, including admissions to the state's colleges and universities.

Many college officials claim that the goal of creating a diverse student body makes it acceptable to give special consideration to the applications of underrepresented minorities, and discussion boards on the college admissions process at least implicitly assume that being an underrepresented minority continues to provide a positive "hook" in the quest to be admitted to selective colleges.

Gallup has asked Americans three times in recent years to give their impressions of what goes on in the college admission process in this regard. The basic question asks respondents to indicate which of two equally qualified students they think would have the better chance of admission to a major university: the white student or the black student:

If two equally qualified students, one white and one black, applied to a major U.S. college or university, who do you think would have the better chance of being accepted to the college -- [ROTATED: the white student, the black student] -- or would they have the same chance?

White student

Black student

Same chance

No opinion

Total

%

%

%

%

2007 Jun 4-24

29

22

43

6

2005 Jun 6-25

29

20

47

4

2003 Jun 12-18

31

29

36

4

 

 

 

 

Non-Hispanic Whites

 

 

 

 

2007 Jun 4-24

20

26

48

6

2005 Jun 6-25

21

24

50

5

2003 Jun 12-15

24

34

38

4

 

 

 

 

Blacks

 

 

 

 

2007 Jun 4-24

61

5

28

6

2005 Jun 6-25

64

4

29

3

2003 Jun 12-18

67

5

24

4

 

 

 

 

As can be seen, there is no strong consensus among Americans as to how the process works. Of those Americans who have a choice, a slight plurality says that the white student would have the advantage, but 43% say that the chances of the two students would be equal.

There are stark differences of opinion by race, however. In each of the three polls, at least 6 out of 10 blacks say that the white student would have the advantage in the college admission process -- a perception of continuing discrimination against blacks. Only a small proportion of blacks say that the black student would have the advantage.

Among whites, however, the results are much different. About half of whites say that two students would have the same chance, and by a slight margin, more whites say that the black student would have the advantage than say the white student would have the advantage. In short, there is a very slight tendency for whites to believe that affirmative action policies are at work in the college admission process.

One can assume that respondents who themselves have gone to college may be more attuned to and knowledgeable about the college admission process.

As can be seen in the table below, regardless of their personal college experience, a majority of blacks agree that the white student would have the advantage. Blacks with college educations feel most strongly about this.

Among whites who have graduated from college, perceptions that the black student would have the better chance are more prevalent than among those who have not graduated from college. Still, the plurality of both college-educated and non college-educated whites believe equally qualified black and white students have the same chance for admission.

If two equally qualified students, one white and one black, applied to a major U.S. college or university, who do you think would have the better chance of being accepted to the college – [ROTATED: the white student, the black student] – or would they have the same chance?

White student

Black student

Same chance

No opinion

%

%

%

%

Non-Hispanic Whites

 

 

 

 

Not College graduates

16

18

60

6

College graduates

22

31

41

6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blacks

 

 

 

 

Not college graduates

55

7

31

7

College graduates

67

3

25

5

General Principle

A separate Gallup Poll question asked about the general principle of taking race and ethnic background into attention in the college admission process:

Which comes closer to your view about evaluating students for admission into a college or university -- [ROTATED: applicants should be admitted solely on the basis of merit, even if that results in few minority students being admitted (or) an applicant's racial and ethnic background should be considered to help promote diversity on college campuses, even if that means admitting some minority students who otherwise would not be admitted]?

Solely on merit

Racial/ethnic background considered

No opinion

Total

%

%

%

2007 Jun 4-24

70

23

6

2003 Jun 12-18

69

27

4

 

 

 

Non-Hispanic Whites

 

 

 

2007 Jun 4-24

78

17

5

2003 Jun 12-15

75

22

3

 

 

 

Blacks

 

 

 

2007 Jun 4-24

47

46

8

2003 Jun 12-18

44

49

7

 

 

 

Americans overwhelmingly endorse the principle that merit should be the only consideration taken into account in college admissions, even though taking race and ethnic background into account might promote diversity on college campuses. This is particularly true among whites.

Black Americans, however, appear to be conflicted on this issue. There is no overwhelming endorsement or rejection by blacks of the principle that race is a legitimate input into the college admission process in order to promote diversity. Blacks split essentially right down the middle on this question.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,019 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Aug. 13-16, 2007. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/28507/Blacks-Convinced-Discrimination-Still-Exists-College-Admission-Process.aspx Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A +1 202.715.3030